Category Archives: Chef Shawn Sisson

Raw Milk: The Choices I Make, and Why

Raw milk has risks. It just does. That means it is exactly no different from anything else we ingest, from lettuce to alcohol. I choose to accept these risks,because I know what they are, and I’ve decided that any potential risks from raw milk from a local, well-vetted farm with excellent husbandry and milking practices is still lower than that of drinking conventional milk.

Here’s the deal:

-Not all of us who drink raw milk are uninformed, on jumping on some bandwagon. I’ve done the research. In fact, part of my job is literally to research food illness, benefits, husbandry practices,etc. I didn’t just hear someone says “raw milk is awesome” and decide “hey, I must drink that!” Raw milk isn’t a recent thing for me. I grew up drinking milk warm, directly from the teats of the cows and goats I milked on our farm. We didn’t pasteurize, but we were taught really excellent husbandry and milking practices. And yes, we milked by hand. We weren’t a dairy, we were too poor to have a milking machine, and as kids we were excellent free labor for our parents.

-I trust my local farmers far more than I trust corporate agriculture. I can stop by and visit my cow, help feed, watch the milking, and see what they do with the milk (including the fact that they’re drinking it, the same as we are) anytime I want, without notice. They provide any information I ask, including testing/herd testing information, with appropriate  verification if requested. I didn’t just wander onto some field with a guy milking a cow and say “hey, can I have some of that?”  Which is essentially what I’m doing if I buy food from corporate agriculture. Corporate Ag sickens thousands each year, from eggs to dairy to produces. Do people get sick from local goods? Of course. But, after looking at all the facts, I believe that–for my family–the risks of non-GMO, grass-fed, pastured, unpasteurized cow’s milk is simply far less than trusting a corporate food system we already know is horribly corrupt. I’ve been sick from mass-produced goods. I have never yet been sick from anything I’ve gotten from my local, vetted farmers. I realize that’s anecdotal, and I don’t expect others to make my choices. But *I* should have a right to make an informed decision about what I eat.

-The risks are, from all the data I can collect since the data is fairly sparse, pretty statistically insignificant. I know that when it’s you or a family member, statistics become irrelevant; but, when making reasonable food choices, they can be helpful. Depending who you listen to, between 3 and 10 Million people drink raw milk in the US. There is, from all the data I could find, an average of 100-150 cases of hospitalization a year reported, meaning they were serious enough to be diagnosed and hospitalized. Only 2 recorded deaths since 1998 that I could find (there may be more, I am willing to revise this, so please let me know). This means that reported cases of illness are between .00005% and .00016%. Even assuming there are, say, 100o unreported cases a year, you’re still only looking at well below a 1% chance of getting ill from raw milk.  I’ll live with that.

-Not all of us who drink raw milk espouse Weston A. Price Foundation values. I am not a member. I do believe in whole foods, I do believe in not eating processed sugars or many simple carobhydrates. I do think we get too few CLAs, Omegas, and the like in our diets as Americans overall. That is about where my paradigm similarities with them ends. I don’t have a problem with them. They’re free to make whatever food choices work for them, and I do applaud the fact that most members bother to educate themselves on what they’re eating, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of Americans who choose to eat crap “food.” I just don’t believe everything they do, and their paradigm borders too closely on fanaticism for me, personally. It’s also frequently tied to religion, and I prefer to keep religious issues out of my food choices.

-I don’t think raw milk is magic. Yes, there are many people who’ve got stories about it curing this or that, and maybe it does. Or, maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know, and that’s not why I choose it. I’m healthy, I am not looking for a panacea. I, personally, notice my (very mild) seasonal allergies are non-existent when I am drinking local, raw milk regularly. The same is true of local, raw honey. Is it psychosomatic? Possibly. But, since that’s not why I drink it, I don’t actually care. I drink it because I like the fact that the cow (from my farm) has been fed no corn or GMO feed, that it eats grass and therefore likely has higher levels of good fatty acids, that the milk tastes better to me, has a higher fat content (yes, we do actually look for that–Thadd needs something like 4 thousand calories a day, and we get almost none of them from simple carbs or sugars) , that it actually contains no hormones or antibiotics (as opposed to “allowable” amounts), that it’s only hours old when I get it, that it supports local agriculture, and that I can make cheese and other products from it much more readily than I can from high-heat pasteurized milk.

-I don’t feed it to the world. Thadd and I drink it. I do make my own cheese, and some of those cheeses can only be made with raw milk or, in some cases, low-heat pasteurized milk. Unfortunately, the latter is not available literally anywhere near me, so the former is my best choice, even if I didn’t want to drink it. These products, and the raw milk itself, are used for only ourselves. We have no children, and typically when we have guests over, we’re drinking local wine, cider, beer, or freshly-made lemonade, not big glasses of milk.

-You can know the risks, and still elect to take them. Simply because someone chooses to do something someone else views as “risky” does not mean the chooser isn’t aware of the risks. People who climb Mt. Everest are doing something I would personally never do, but I am pretty sure they’re aware of what they’re getting into. People have many different reasons for choosing what they choose to do, and can look at the same information, and come to a different decision. For some people, any germ associated with food is abhorrent. For me, food without germs is abhorrent. I think, overall, that germ theory has led us in the wrong direction, and is one reason we’re so sick as a nation. (I don’t use hand sanitizer, but I do wash my hands thoroughly. I don’t use bleach to clean my house, but I do clean well with soap and water.)  Of course, germs are not the same as pathogens, and while I realize that pathogens can be present in raw milk, appropriate practices keeps the risk of that very small. Small enough, in fact, that I choose to take it because for me, it’s a smaller risk than the long-term effects of what is in much commercial milk.

-Not all of us believe that raw milk should flow freely like a river down a mountain, unhindered and unregulated. I certainly don’t. I would love it if our government could take a step back from lobbyists who contribute heavily to their campaign funds, and draft real, reasonable regulation that would help ensure the safety of a raw milk supply and the products thereof. It’s not impossible. Other countries have done it well (some so well it can actually be gotten at vending machines, and the instances of illness are reported to be the same as pasteurized). Europe is famous for its fresh, raw milk cheeses. People are not hospitalized or dying in droves from fresh ricotta or aged Roquefort (the latter of which is required, by law, to be made from fresh, raw sheep’s milk). Unfortunately, our government, and many people who seem to speak on either side of this issue, seem to see no middle: it’s either a free-for-all, or a felony.  When really, it should be more along the lines of: here are solid regulations for husbandry, milking, testing, storage, and transport. Follow them, or you will be liable, just like other food companies (oh, wait…other food companies get people sick and hospitalize them all the time with no real consequences). So, until and unless those who do the regulation can get their collective heads out of their collective arses,  it leaves those of us in the middle with a lot of vetting to do on our farms.

Raw milk is not for everyone. There are plenty of instances when pasteurized milk is the better choice. But, there’s no good reason why the choice can’t be offered in a safe way.


An Old Towne Time, and On the Menu

This week will be the first meeting of my neighborhood’s cooking and nutrition class. It’s just an informational type meeting, to introduce myself, see what folks are interested in learning, and go over some basics; but, I am really looking forward to it. A healthy community is a safer, more successful community, and it bleeds out into a healthier society. Which the US desperately needs right now. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In other news, our greens and radishes came in hard and heavy from the greenhouse these last few weeks. so we’ve been enjoying a salad with almost every meal. I love sorrel–if you hadn’t, go find some. It’s worth the search. This ties into the On the Menu segment because you can just assume we at a fresh, crispy salad with every one.

On the Menu


Sunday: Jambalaya with cornbread. I wanted to try out a new recipe before I gave it to my clients. I have a perfectly good jambalaya recipe, but this one had a few advantages. It was fabulous. Jambalaya is a great way to stretch seafood, sausage, and/or chicken. I left out the chicken in this case, and it still made a huge amount.

Monday: Stuffed garden stand cannelloni. This tried-and-true recipe is from one of my favorite organic cookbooks. My clients were going to get it this week, and I was going to have a pile of leftover lasagna noodles, so I made a batch for us.

Tuesday: Catfish with couscous and roasted cauliflower. Thadd’s night to cook, and since he’s at the end of his semester, it’s got to be fast. We like catfish, his go-to side is couscous, and roasted cauliflower is a favorite in this house. It works just as well frozen as it does fresh.

Wednesday: Cannellini au Gratin with roasted olives and grapes. I know, it sounds weird. But, it’s a rich mix that even meat lovers seem to fall in love with. The roasted grapes and olive idea wigged even me out when I first ran across it, but it works incredibly well.

Thursday: Grilled flank steak with charred sweet potatoes. We owe the charred sweet potato idea to our friends Dave and MJ, who introduced us to them last year. They’re so creamy and sweet. The grilled flank steak will be marinaded with…well, whatever I throw in. I tend to whip a lot of my marinades up on the fly.

Friday: Thai peanut noodles with tofu. Thadd’s been bothering me about having this dish again, and since we have a plethora of Twin Oak’s tofu in the freezer, I figured I’d go ahead. It’s really easy to make, but I can’t stand crappy tofu; so, it only gets made when I’ve got a supply of the “good stuff.” Which is, incidentally, cheaper than the crappy stuff.

Lunches are, of course, leftovers mostly. We plan it that way. Breakfasts this week will be a variety of: scrambled eggs w/greens & veggies, toast, Greek Yogurt, granola, strawberries, oatmeal.

There’s a Joke About People Who Live In Glass Houses…

But, it’s really overdone, so I decided not to use it as the title of my post. The last winery on the Appellation Wine Trail Tour for us was, indeed, Glass House Winery.  This was the only winery on the trail we’d been to before, and it was a great place to end.

The winery itself is gorgeous, and though we did out tasting inside at the bar (they were too busy to do them in the greenhouse), we all ended up with glasses of wine out among the tropical plants and live music. This was a perfect way to warm up and end the day after a chilling rain-soaked day. But, onto the wines:

I took lousy notes. It was crowded, it was the last winery of the day and I was wet and my palette was more than a little tired. This means my review will not be quite as comprehensive as my others, and I encourage you to remember that when reading.

So, I’ll say that overall I am not a big fan of their whites, the Pinot Gris and the Viogner.  They’re not bad, they’re just okay.  I’m coming to really like some Viogners, which I tried on the recommendation of a friend, but Glass House’s just falls flat for me.

I am far more impressed by the reds I’ve tasted here, Thadd and I both ended up with glasses of the Cvillan. It was full, fruit forward, and had a nice finish. We didn’t taste the Barbara (I think they’re sold out..either that, or I was in the bathroom, which is possible).

They also do a dessert wine, the Meglio del Sesso. This is a really nice dessert wine, full of chocolate flavor without being syrupy. This, I was told on my last visit, is because it’s infused with real chocolate. Which is appropriate, because the winemaker’s wife makes the most divine chocolates (my favorites are her wine and her earl gray…mmmm!). Our friends each got a glass of this for our wind-down greenhouse sitting.

I will say the pours here were really small. I suspect it’s because the tasting room staffer we had knew we’d been to several other wineries, and as I’d been here before, I was fine with it. On another day, though, I’d probably have wanted a slightly larger pour for tasting.

Overall, the day was a huge success, and Glass House was the perfect ending!

Cheers! Or: Mountfair Vineyards

We weren’t actually going to go to Mountfair Vineyards on this trip. It’s not that we didn’t want to try their wines, it was that we had a chance to get a sneak preview of other vineyards that wouldn’t be open again for some time. As it turns out, Moss Vineyard, the second not-yet-open winery scheduled on our tour, just didn’t happen. The road was washed out, and there was no way were were going to make it. We actually turned around with the intention of heading back to White Hall to let them know about the road, then realized we could actually make it through to Mountfair.

Mountfair is a modest looking place. It’s nice, but it’s not a hoity-toity kind of place. We instantly loved it! As we walked into a once-again-packed tasting room, the rain had broken and it was getting somewhat pleasant outside. Inside, it felt like Cheers. By this third winery on the tour, we had been tasting with practically everyone in the tasting room. We bellied up to the long tasting bar, and were greeted by the winemaker and owner, Fritz Repich, who had glasses out before we even finished settling in. He was a great person to taste with: not only did he (obviously) know a lot about the wines, but his enthusiasm and overall friendliness made this feel like a second home.

They were, tragically, out of the Wooloomooloo. I say tragically because I’ve been reading about this wine on twitter for months, and I am dying to try it. It has it’s own hashtag, for heaven’s sake. Is there any other VA wine has it’s own hashtag? Every time someone tweets “Popped a bottle of #wooloomooloo,” there a bazillion replies about how jealous everyone is.  I have no idea when the next vintage comes out, though I know Fritz told me–I just didn’t get it written down. They’re also sold out of their Engagement.

The thing about Mountfair is that they want to do what they do very well. They produce small amounts, as few as 100 cases of some wines, with care. Everything here is a Bordeaux style, and Fritz clearly would rather produce small amounts of wine he’s proud of in a style he loves than a lot of wine that’s just okay. I really admire that.

As we chatted, he poured us some 2008 Belated ($25). This is 60% Merlot, 30% Cab Franc, and 10% Petit Verdot. The nose has tobacco, some black pepper, and deep red fruits, mostly cherry. You can taste the Petit Verdot red fruits here, too, despite it being a small percent; but, they’re really well balanced wit the oak. I also got tack room on the palette, and I mean that in a good way: old and well-loved leather, hay, and general earthiness.

Next up was the 2008 Indigenous ($25). This is 100% estate-grown grapes, half Petit Verdot and half Cab Franc. The swirl showed a royal color, it was gorgeous. Lots of smoke on the nose and palette, and again the red fruit, this time more pronounced. Strawberry and some lavender registered for me. Overall, this was what I’d call an earthy wine, and was probably my favorite of the wines here. I could drink this alone, because I like big reds that make me think, but it would stand up to most foods. I didn’t write down a specific pairing.

The first single varietal was the 2009 Merlot ($20). As reds go, Merlot is generally just kind of “meh” for me. This one is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cab Frac. Lots of plum and vanilla on the nose, with a hint of green pepper and tobacco. This was surprisingly fruit forward while still being nice and dry, with notes of black cherry, green pepper, and some leather, all of which lingered nicely to the medium finish. This wold go well with any kind of BBQ, from grilled chicken to seared London Broil. It was a very solid Merlot, and better than many I’ve had in the same price point. It didn’t knock my socks off, but then again, few Merlots have that effect on me.

The last wine was the 2009 Cabernet Franc ($20). I’m a general fan of a well-produced Cab Franc. This had a lighter nose than I was expecting, and didn’t have as much of the green pepper as the Merlot, which was weird since that’s a characteristic I normally associate with Cab Franc (and yes, I know that debate about whether it should be there or not, but I LIKE that flavor in my Cabs Franc, thank you). I didn’t get a lot else on this wine, really. It was a solid, drinkable Cab Franc at a reasonable price, but I preferred the Merlot, which is just plain odd for me.

While we were tasting, Fritz rounded up the winery’s social media guru, Jacqueline Pullman, and we got to talk twitter and marketing, as well as wine tours and tasting. If you get a chance to pick her brain next time you visit, you really should. And, make sure you follow them on twitter. She’s fun and informative. We ended up in the caravan to glass House together, and she as one of the wonderful folks waiting on the other side of that wash out to make sure the rest of us got through alright.

Overall, I was really surprised by Mountfair. It’s this little secret winery that isn’t really a secret. Everyone who’s in the VA wine scene seems to know about (and own) several bottles, and from what I’ve seen and read everyone is excited about what they’re doing; but, the place is so unpretentious and welcoming it’s almost a surprise to get wine instead of beer.  While I like Veritas, Pollak, and several others in the area, this is a welcome change of pace. It feels and tastes artisanal, and like you’ve found this little spot that’s your very own–where everybody knows your name.

So, up to this point, I do have to say I feel like the “Rah Rah” squad for this wine trail. Honestly, and I’ll admit surprisingly, nothing sucked.  And there are wineries that do–I have a running list of “only if you’re making really sweet sangria out of it” and another list of “Never, under any circumstances” places and wines. There are some at all the vineyards on the trail that don’t blow my skirt up, and that I wouldn’t take home. But, unlike other trips, I didn’t have anything that ended with the tasting note “horse shit and acetone.” For which I am profoundly grateful, especially after the coconut-turned-lipstick incident. It took me days to get rid of that taste!

Quatro Verdot at White Hall Vineyards!

White Hall Vineyards

Like all the other vineyards we visited this day, we arrived in the pouring rain. From what wasn’t under water and that  I glimpsed as I ran splashingly under the pergola, the outside of the place is nice.  The circular tasting bar was full, so we were nudged towards the “overflow” tasting table, where we got a chance to talk with the chef who was in charge of pairing the cheeses with the tastings for the event. I’m not going to go over the cheeses, but suffice it to say they were well-paired and really tasty. There were even two raw milk cheeses, which as a huge advocate, I was pleased to see.

I didn’t catch our splasher’s name, unfortunately, but she was pleasant and knew the wines. She was also very rushed, which I can hardly be upset by given the day, so we didn’t get much sense of what the personality of the winery was. I can forgive that completely, as the tasting room was just simply overwhelmed. No amount of staffing would have solved that–there’s only so much room!

First up was a their 2008 Chardonnay ($14.99). I think I’ve established that I am not generally a white wine girl, but I am not sure if I mentioned that I don’t like Chardonnay in particular.  This was one of a handful of Chardonnay’s I’ve even finished the sample of, and I loved it. It’s aged 50/50 in stainless and oak. I got pear and pineapple on the nose, and the pineapple stayed just a bit on the palette. The citrus was there, but I tasted more vanilla, apple, and melon. There was no butter, which was surprising to me given the oak aging. You can’t beat this as a white, especially not at the price point. I plan on going back and stocking up for summer.

The 2008 Cuvee des Champs ($29.99) is a blend of 5 grapes: merlot, malbec, petit verdot, and another grape I didn’t jot down. This is a big, big wine. The color is beautiful. There was spice and chocolate on the nose. The chocolate disappears on the tongue, but returns large in the finish. There was some very rich, though not jammy, dark fruit on the palette, with oak (thankfully, not too much). All around, this is a good wine, though I am not entirely certain it meets the price point expectations. It also really, really needs food. The cheese we had with it was great, but I see it with fire-roasted pizza. Not sophisticated, and this wine could stand up to sophisticated food, but the fire-roasted, smoky flavor would work really well.

Along with these three, or the Grand Opening of the Appellation Wine Trail, White Hall busted out the big guns with a 4 year vertical tasting of their Petit Verdot. We started with a 2006 (not for sale), which was my least favorite of the bunch. It had virtually no nose, though their tasting sheet says I should have smelled black cherry and blackberry. No one at our tasting station smelled anything at all, so I don’t think it was just me. There was some plum on the palate, and tobacco on the finish, but that was about all I got. It wasn’t bad, per se, there just wasn’t much too it.

The 2007 Petit Verdot (also not for sale) was my favorite of the vertical. I like big red wines, and this was huge. Cherry and black fruit on the nose, with some tobacco. A full, complex wine with raspberries, cedar, some leather, and a pleasant dryness. It had a medium finish of berry and leather.

A close runner up to the 2007 for me, the 2008 Petit Verdot ($19.99) was beautiful. Again, lots of cedar here, both on the nose and on the palate, but it’s balanced out well by some red fruits. Their tasting notes said chocolate, but I got coffee. It ended longer than the 2007, and less smoky.  This is a great wine, and I’d serve it with or without food. It’s on my list to grab for our cellar.

The finale was the 2009 Petit Verdot ($19.99). This was a more basic example of a Petit Verdot. It’s not terribly complex, though still perfectly nice to drink casually.  I felt like it was the dumbed-down version of the 2008, though I suspect it was the growing season and not the winemaker. It had all the same elements of nose and palate, but they were kind of muted, if that makes any sense.

We finished off with the dessert wine, Soliterre 2007 ($16.99), which is prounced Solitaire (I checked, because I didn’t want to sound like an idiot talking about it). It was sweet without being cloying (I didn’t get a residual sugar percentage, sorry). Lots of passion fruit and honey. My interest in dessert wines is limited, since we rarely pop one open, but this was very nice and set at a reasonable price point. We almost never end up finishing a dessert wine when we open it, so it’s nice to have a selection that you enjoy drinking but isn’t going to break the bank if you end up making into ice cream.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by White Hall’s offerings. I hadn’t heard much about them. Now, I didn’t get to taste most of their regular offerings, but what we did taste was really drinkable, enjoyable wine at a really great price. They’re definitely on my “to visit more often!” list, and I can’t wait to go back and do a regular tasting. I will say that I also really appreciate that they refund one tasting fee for a purchase.

They’ve Got an Egg! And another Winery!

Stinson Vineyards and Ankida Ridge Vineyards

Let’s get this out of the way: There aren’t going to be any pictures. I forgot my camera.

The first winery we hit on the Appellation Wine Trail’s Grand Opening day was Stinson Vineyards, a new winery that’s not technically open to the public yet. They actually open on June 16th, with their Grand Opening celebration on July 4th; but, they rolled it out for this one day.

It was pouring rain, so we didn’t get a great look at the outside of things, but the inside is comfortably utilitarian. At least for this event, there were three small wine tasting stations, some comfortable indoor seating, and a selection of fresh jams and herbs for purchase. The atmosphere was friendly, open, and airy. The tasting room is attached to their actual “operations” area, and there was free movement between the two, which was kind of fun.

We wandered up to the middle tasting bar, and were greeted by Rachel Stinson, who is also the social media guru for the winery (and, incidentally, for the Appellation Trail club’s twitter feed at AppTrailVA). I’d been sending her, though I didn’t know it was her, annoying tweets all week about details of the event and wineries. So, I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when she recognized me. Despite my annoying over-tweeting, she was very friendly and helpful.  Unsurprisingly, she was also really knowledgeable about the wines. Tastings were $5. For this event, that included a small lunch of a slider and some sides, too (see more about that in yesterday’s review).

As we were getting ready for our tasting, Rachel pointed out their Nomblot Concrete Egg. Yeah, I didn’t know what the heck that was or what it was for, either. Fortunately, you can do what I did, and read about it on their blog. As I found out when I did so yesterday, it probably explained some of what I had in my tasting notes. Apparently, there are only a few of these in the state, including one owned by Jim Law.

We started off with the 2010 Sauvignon blanc ($21.99). Stainless steel fermented. There was a lot of citrus for me on the nose: a really floral lemon and tart apple stood out, but there was some grass and hay on the nose, as well. This white was very light, but still managed to have what I think of as a “deep” palette. I have no idea why I got butter on this one, since there’s no oak. A solid white with nice dryness. I should probably point out here that I am still learning about Sauv Blanc, so I am not the best person to judge this. Generally I am a reds girl, but I’m really, really trying to learn to love whites, and I could definitely drink this. They say to pair it with oysters, crab, or salmon, but I think it would overpower the latter two unless there was a butter or cream sauce. I’d put it with fresh oysters, cedar-planked grilled shrimp skewers, or lemon cream pasta.

Next was the 2010 Rose ($19.99).  This dry rose is 100% Mourvedre grape according to their tasting notes, and sat on the skins for 48 hours. It had great color. Unfortunately, it didn’t have much flavor up front for me. I got a lot of minerality, and even some smokiness (which the tasting notes actually list, as well), but not a lot else. On the back, though, it had a really long, pleasant finish.  Overall, I think this is too light to stand up to much in the way of food. It would do well for some white drinkers trying to break into reds, but for me there just wasn’t enough there.

The 2010 Sugar Hollow White ($14.95) is a blend of Petit Manseng (a particular favorite grape of mine) and Rkatsiteli. The latter I knew exactly zero about, until Rachel mentioned it was a Russian grape (which is now my full extent of knowledge about it). This is a super-light porch sipper with 0.9% residual sugar. I got peaches and honeysuckle on both the nose and palette, which isn’t surprising given the Petit Manseng. I can’t imagine any food this would stand up to, so drink it alone and well-chilled. At the price, it’s a fine bottle to pop for guests at a summer shindig. It’s not so much my speed, generally, as I don’t typically care for sweeter whites, but I’d take a glass or two on a hot night around a bonfire.

The reds kicked off with the 2010 Sugar Hollow Red ($12.99). The notes say it’s whole berry fermented and aged in stainless.  The nose was dark berry with some leather, and dirt and wet forest. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I like the smell of dirt and wet forest–it’s a clean, earthy kinds of smell. In fact, I suspect that’s the word I should have used, but I like my description better. Again, this had a lot of minerality, of which I am quickly becoming a fan, and the medium finish was leather, plum, and that earthy thing. Thadd wasn’t a fan, but I like this as a full bodied table red, and the price is hard to beat for that.

We finished up with a barrel sample of the 2010 Cabernet Franc ($21.99). They’re bottling it May 2nd, so I assume it’ll be available for sale when they open in June.  I got a lot of tobacco and smoke on the nose, which carried over into the palette. There was some black pepper, and some cherry in the background. This wine is still really tight, and I’ll be interested to see it in a year or two. I think it’s going to age nicely, and will benefit from some time in the cellar. This was probably my favorite of the offerings, followed closely by the Sugar Hollow Red.

Currently, Stinson is buying all their grapes from other local wineries. They’ve got their own vines in the ground, but it’ll be a couple of years before we see what they do with them. Rachel mentioned that they were learning some biodiversity technique from Ankida Ridge Vineyard (see my review of their pinot noir below), so it’ll be interesting to watch them mature as they have control of their own fruit. Overall, they’ve got some solid, unique wines priced appropriately and one really great value, and I believe they’re a winery to watch.

While we were there, we also got to taste a barrel sample of Ankida Ridge Vineyard’s Pinot Noir (there’s no price on this yet).. In a word: DRY. This had smoke all over, from the nose to the palette to the finish. There was a lot of tobacco on the nose and at the finish, but little on the palatte. There was a lot of black cherry and some floral on the front and middle, dying in the finish. The spice kicked in here a bit late, but lingered nicely through the finish. It was a little hot, though I suspect that some aging will remedy that.  I am total sucker for a good pinot noir, and I’ll even drink a mediocre one, so I was pretty excited to see another example of this wine from local fruit. Only a few places in VA have the microclimate to grow these grapes, and I am not sure if Ankida is growing their own or buying them from one of the local places.  This was a great example of a Pinot Noir. It’s exciting to see another well-done version of this here in VA. It’s tight, but since it’s not even out of the barrel yet, that’s totally expected. I’d pair this with Basque chicken. I know that’s oddly specific, but it’s all I could think about when tasting it, and that’s what’s going to get paired with it when we bring a bottle home.

They’re not set to open until fall, but Rachel said they’d be selling online sometime in May. Meanwhile, you can keep up with their progress via their blog, where you can also moon and goo-goo at the fuzzy little lambs they’ve got roaming around.

Tomorrow: White Hall Vineyards.

Author’s Note: I’ve been asked why you can’t leave comments on my blog. You can, it’s just not as easy to find as I’d like to to be. Look just below this post, and you’ll see a small, gray paragraph of links/actions. Just click “Leave a comment.” I’ll leave one now, so you’ll see a number beside it.

Always Wanted A Personal Chef?

Well, if you live in Charlottesville or Lynchburg, Va (or anywhere in between), now’s your chance. I have one client opening on Mondays starting in March.

What is Personal Chef service?  First, we talk about your food preferences and goal. Then,  every week you get a menu personalized to your specifications, including food preferences, dietary needs, and portions. You’ll come home to a refrigerator full of gourmet, healthful food an a clean kitchen, without the stress of planning, cooking, or shopping. For most people and families, it’s less expensive than eating out! For those looking to manage or lose weight, or working with special medical conditions, a Personal Chef can be  a vital part of your success.

I specialize in local foods, like the chicken from Davis Creek and the roots from other area farms. Special diets are welcome, including weight management, diabetes, vegetarian, locavore, CR, South Beach, Weight Watchers, Celiac, and more. Menus can be as diverse as you want, including traditional cuisines from a variety of cultures, or as down-home as Grandma used to make. (You can see menu samples here). I’m also happy to work with your CSA, or vegetables from your own garden.

If you’re interested in more information, please contact me using the “contact” field to the right, and include your name, email address, and the city in which you live, as well as any dietary concerns of other questions. References are always available. I look forward to hearing from you!